White cane: A symbol of independence
by Dan Kaneko | Nov. 3, 2022
At Hawaiian Electric, volunteerism and inclusivity are core to our company’s values. This year with in-person events returning in full force, I’ve enjoyed getting back into the community and seeing what we can accomplish when we all come together. Last month, we joined together to shine a light on an often-overlooked demographic.
On Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, hundreds of walkers gathered at the Hawaii State Capitol for the 30th Annual White Cane Walk to show their support for Hawaii’s blind and visually impaired community. The event draws attention to this community of more than 3,200 in Hawaii while highlighting their ability to live and work independently.
This was the first year (of hopefully many more) that Hawaiian Electric joined the cause, and I was moved to see so many fellow employees and members from other organizations come out to show their support. From 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., hundreds of walkers could be seen waving signs and making their way from the State Capitol to Bishop Square and then back to Iolani Palace.
You may be wondering why a walk for the blind and visually impaired would be held in the busy streets of downtown Honolulu. Well, you may be surprised to learn that they expertly navigated the busy city landscape of Oahu’s business district with assistance only at cross-walks where police held traffic for all walkers. The display of self-sufficiency is made possible thanks to the long white cane.
After doing a little research, I learned that the white cane is a really useful tool. The white cane allows its user to gather information about their surrounding environment. When paired with proper instruction and training, it can empower the user to confidently navigate his or her environment safely and efficiently.
A lack of education and awareness has led to many misconceptions about blind people. They are, in fact, very capable and the White Cane Walk is a small step in the right direction towards informing the public that the blind community can be self-sufficient. So, the next time you see one of those long white canes, remember that it’s a sign of strength rather than a limitation.
The White Cane Walk was organized by Hoopono Services for the Blind, which offers free vocational training so blind residents can work and live independently. The event coincides with National Disability Employment Awareness month, a time to celebrate the contributions of Hawaii’s workforce who live with disabilities. It also recognizes the efforts of employers who are building diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces.
For more information about the Hoopono Rehabilitation Center for the Blind visit humanservices.hawaii.gov/vr.
Dan Kaneko is a digital communications and social media specialist at Hawaiian Electric Company.